Remember the PM CARES fund? Set up during the Covid-19 pandemic, this fund was supposed to help us to fight Covid, and other emergency situations, instead, it became mired in controversies. In January this year, the PMO told the Delhi high court that this is not a ‘public authority; and is not answerable to the public about its functioning! 

A latest report by Business Standard unveils more facts. Public sector companies contributed at least Rs.2913.6 crore to the PM CARES fund, between 2019-20 and 2021-22. Business Standard could identify 57 such companies. The top five donors on the list are Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, NTPC, Power Grid Corporation of India, Indian Oil Corporation, and Power Finance Corporation, all contributing over 200 crores. 

It was stated that as a public charitable trust, PM CARES trust fund doesn’t receive any Govt money. But this new information completely changes that position. This analysis became possible by the data collated by tracker, which tracks data of companies listed on the National Stock Exchange. The money that the 57 government firms contributed to the PM CARES fund, is part of their CSR spending. 

Interestingly, the government had amended norms to limit the amount of information that companies have to put out in their annual reports on CSR spending, in September 2022. That means the companies do not have to provide as many details to shareholders on where their CSR spending is going. 

As per the disclosures on its website, PM CARES fund collected Rs. 3076.6 crore in 2019-20, which rose to Rs.10,990.2 crore in 2020-21. Curiously, PM CARES fund spent only Rs 2049 crore in 2019-20, Rs 3,976.2 crore in 2020-21 and Rs 3,716.3 crore in 2021-22. 

PM CARES Fund is also exempted under the FCRA, and the official records also show that the fund received Rs 535.44 crore as foreign donations during the last three years, including donations from China. 

So all in all the fund attracted a donation of Rs 12,691.82 crore in three years. While as per its Receipt and Payment Accounts, it has an unspent balance of Rs 5,415.65 crore as on March 2022. We don’t have enough data to probe why was the money not spent in the first place. The question remains, why was the fund made private, and how does it continue to flaunt its own guidelines? Government firms have contributed a significant stake in the fund, which makes the government answerable as to its spending. 

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